It was more like the KROQ Love-In, as 15,000 shiny, happy people helped make this second annual festival, which raised funds for Heal the Bay and AIDS Project L.A., a rousing, satisfying success. With the entire on-air staff of the sponsoring alternative-rock station serving as silly cheerleaders, this daylong, sun-drenched affair went off without a hitch. With music ranging from the tender noodlings of Counting Crows and Australian newcomers Frente, to the spastic fury of the Rollins Band and Cali punkers Green Day, as well as most everything else in between, the Weenie Roast aimed high and scored often.
Beginning with reasonably priced (but difficult to obtain) tickets and ending with a Lollapalooza-like midway area that stayed open long after the concert ended, this event managed a level of communal spirit and entertainment value that most similar affairs only hope for.
Musically, the nine-hour concert, which moved along at a surprisingly brisk pace, covered many of the styles that might be considered alternative rock.
In a close race with longtime modern rockers Boingo (formerly Oingo Boingo) and show-closers Violent Femmes, Bay-area punkers Green Day appeared to be the best-received act of the day. Mixing humorous, sophomoric antics with an anxious , punk-angry attack, the Reprise trio whipped the excitable crowd into a loud frenzy. Singer Billy Joe’s Jerry Lewis-meets-Johnny Rotten persona (complete with dropped trou) drew enthusiastic approval from the packed house.
Given the unfortunate task of following those hooligans was multiplatinum DGC folk-rockers Counting Crows. The usually engaging band was left looking rather impotent in Green Day’s shadow. Singer Adam Duritz, whose latter-day Van Morrison style can be quite affecting, missed the mark on this long day with what came off as over-sentiment and anti-climax.
The ruthless ferocity of post-punk slammers the Rollins Band was intro’d by a quite grunged-out Ed McMahon, who managed to get the huge crowd to yell “hi-yoooo” in unison. Songs from the current Imago release “Weight,” including psycho-hit “Liar,” were the perfect accompaniment to the setting Sun.
Unlikely pop star Beck introduced his DGC megahit “Loser” this way: “This is called ‘KROQ gave me a Frisbee, I threw it and it came back and hit me in the face.’ ” All in good fun, though, as his warped hip-hop/folk/noise approach was well received.
Matador’s Pavement overcame early guitar trouble to turn in yet another engaging set. “Silent Kiss” and trendy anti-trend hit “Cut Your Hair” were high points.
Veteran Brit rockers the Pretenders played a hit-filled set that also included two from the group’s excellent new Warner Bros. album “Last of the Independents.”
The most ambitious set of the day was turned-in by ambient Fontana/Mercury rockers James, who mixed together an active yet fluid sound of soaring, mid-tempo pop.
The show’s closers, Giant’s Boingo and Elektra’s Violent Femmes, both have long, rich histories with KROQ. Aside from old fave “Only a Lad,” Boingo and bandleader Danny Elfman mainly stuck to tracks from the band’s new, self-titled album. Highlight of the group’s 40-minute set, though, was a stirring take on the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus.” Complete with the string-bridge, Elfman and band , the only act of the night-time portion to create drama out of the darkness, added new life to John Lennon’s words of paranoia.
The acoustic/punk trio Violent Femmes ended the show with a rousing set that featured “Blister in the Sun,” a KROQ fave, and the always fun “American Music.”
Also appearing were Orange Co. punk band Offspring (Epitaph Records), Seattle hard-rockers Candlebox (Maverick) and mellow Aussie group Frente (Mammoth).